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The Village Technology Hub, From 'Venture: A Collection of True Microfinance Stories'

11/09/2012 02:35 pm ET | Updated Jan 09, 2013

Venture is a rich and readable collection of true microfinance stories. It is written for anyone who would like to better understand the realities faced by the the aspiring middle class in the world's least developed countries, the range of factors that affect their prospects for working their way out of poverty, and how microfinance can impact their lives.

The entrepreneurs featured in this book are all members of Zidisha Microfinance, a web-based crowdfunding platform that allows low-income, computer-savvy entrepreneurs in developing countries to share their stories and negotiate microloans directly with individual lenders. As the world's first person-to-person lending service to eliminate intermediaries and connect individual web users and entrepreneurs across the international wealth divide, Zidisha is uniquely positioned to offer an undistorted depiction of the variety of individual stories and circumstances that come to play each time a microfinance loan is disbursed.

Each story paints an unforgettable picture: A seventy-year-old goat farmer who relocates his home to better care for his ailing father, carrying the sticks and metal sheeting it was made from across the mountains on his back. A plump, beaming detergent saleslady who lives in a home no larger than an ordinary bathroom but has adopted five orphans. A cancer survivor who supports herself and two children by pounding millet for $1.58 per day. An irrepressible lady who supplies half of her neighborhood with much-needed IVs and other medical supplies by day, and by night checks into the local cybercafe to chat with Facebook friends on the other side of the world. A young man who has no arms but insists on working to support his able-bodied parents out of filial duty. An accounting student who pays for his university tuition by purchasing a taxi and splitting proceeds with a hired driver. A bright young lady who renounces college to care for her orphaned siblings and overcomes gender stereotypes to launch a thriving construction business.

At its heart, "Venture" is a tribute to the remarkable community of Zidisha Microfinance entrepreneurs and countless others like them -- a tribute to their grit, ambition and indomitable spirit in the face of overwhelming obstacles. We hope this book will help translate the statistics about poverty and the opportunities afforded by microfinance into human terms, and inspire readers to reach out and connect with their counterparts on the other side of the international wealth divide.

Story 4: The Village Technology Hub

Eliud Mathu is a young entrepreneur who created a multi-service technology boutique in a small village in the rugged mountains of Kenya's Rift Valley. He used a Zidisha loan of $536 to buy a computer and a scanner-printer for the boutique. His business became then a cybercafé, a photocopies shop and a battery charging station.

Eliud is a newcomer in the village, so during the first few months his business was not very successful because villagers didn't know him and which services he was offering. To understand Eliud's services people needed to come in the store and see what was available. To help his business to grow in visibility, Eliud decided to become an M-PESA agent. M-PESA is a great system that uses mobile phones to transfer money. It is a real electronic wallet. In Kenya you can pay everything with M-PESA: you just need to type in your phone the amount of money that you want to transfer and the number of the recipient. The role of the M-PESA agent is to handle cash deposit and withdrawal.

This new business generated a huge traffic in the boutique. During the hour that I spent in his boutique about fifteen people came in for it. In addition to bringing more people inside the store, the M-PESA business generates approximately $102 per month in profits. Eliud plans to increase this revenue by adding new M-PESA services. He told me that some agents manage to earn as much as $238 per month, so I think that this will be his target for the future.

Eliud studied until the age of twenty, but could not go to university because of lack of money. He worked then as an employee in a M-PESA kiosk for three years. Now, he is hoping that his business will grow enough to allow him to have the money for university. He is planning to hire an employee who will run the shop in his absence so that he has time to study. In the short term, Eliud's objective is to save $180 in order to acquire a driving license, and to continue to help his parents to pay the school fees of his sister.

I was very happy to meet Eliud because it was clear that the loan had a big impact on his life. It also had a positive impact on the whole village since it created an internet access point in this remote area. Now it will be much easier for villagers to go online. Maybe some of them will visit Zidisha.org and become new members.

Eliud's Words:

My name is Eliud Mathu Ndiba. I am single and very ambitious young man... I am M-PESA Agent called "Aloft Marketing"; this is where I earn my living from. I get about KSH 22,000 [$275] monthly so annually I get about KSH 264,000 [$3,300]. From the earning I am able to pay my bills, buy food, clothes and I also help my parents to pay school fees for my sisters who are in school.

I also do farming as a business where I plant crops for sale where I get income of about annual KSH 80,000 [$1,000] so the total annual income is KSH 344, 000 [$4,300]...

With a computer that I bought after Zidisha's Loan, more new members are using it to join Zidisha and old members to post comments. Zidisha has help me because I am able to offer internet services in my remote area.

Now I am waiting for the second loan from Zidisha. I will buy more computers because internet services in this area are creating a huge traffic in my business.

You may view the latest news and photos of Eliud's business at his Zidisha Microfinance profile page.

From Chapter 4 of Venture: A Collection of True Microfinance Stories by Zidisha Microfinance.

Next time: How a computer-literate member of a nomadic settlement in one of the most remote places on earth raised microfinance funding online, and helped his community survive a famine...